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Inside the Middle East - Blog
July 31, 2008
Grief And Outrage In Egypt

Relatives in 2006, anxiously waiting for updates on their relatives after the ferry sank. (AP photo)


--By CNN's Octavia Nasr

A mother screams at the top of her lungs, accusing the Egyptian judicial system of corruption.

She's joined by other families who came to an Egyptian court expecting a conviction and a maximum sentence. Instead, they witnessed an acquittal of five men they believe are responsible for their loved ones' deaths.

Arab media were on hand to report the outrage and provide context.

In 2006 a ferry carrying some fourteen hundred people--mostly pilgrims and workers--from Saudi Arabia to Egypt sank in the Red Sea, resulting in the death of more than a thousand people.

The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya tracked the last hours of the ferry and reported the following about the investigation:

1. The recovered data recorder proved that the ferry's owner knew there had been a fire on board but gave orders to continue on instead of returning to port as the captain had requested.

2. The ferry did not have functional life boats or life preservers.

3. Another boat passing in the area received a distressed signal from the sinking ferry but did not stop or try to help.

Two years after the tragedy, at the Egyptian court, the boat owner -- a parliament member who left Egypt shortly after the ferry sank and has not returned since -- is cleared of any wrongdoing along with four others. Only the captain of the boat who did not stop to help was sentenced to six months in jail.

On her FaceBook page, Egyptian columnist Mona El-Tahawi expressed shock immediately after the verdict.

"Can't believe the ferry owner and his son were acquitted." She exclaimed. "Are Egyptian lives worth nothing?" She asked.

In the Lebanese Newspaper Al Akhbar, Wael Abdel Fattah writes under the headline "Protecting Corruption in Egypt"

"The victims' cry for help fell on deaf ears... But it reinforced the belief that Corruption is a mass murderer."

An opinion echoed on Arab networks, but refuted by those sympathetic to the Egyptian court. One of them told Al-Arabiya, "These accusations are nonsense. The judgment reflects the truth of what happened. The law in Egypt is independent and fair."

On Al-Jazeera, reporter Omar al-Kahki offered an emotional conclusion to his report. He said, "Those who died may have found eternal peace but their families will continue to endure pain and suffering."

While Egypt's prosecutor general filed an appeal, the anti-government newspaper Egypt Daily News published a 'Wanted' poster for the ferry's owner signaling this is certainly not the end.
this is crime the owner of the ferry and some Egyptian ministers and government officials should be put on trial.this time the trial should be out side Egypt under the UN supervision.the whole Egyptian System under Mubarak is corrupt.instead of raising the standard of living of the poor like under the late Nasser, Mubarak is handing the future of Egypt to corrupt rich Egyptian.Maybe Egypt need a new revolution.
I completely agree with the previous comment. It's a shame that a country to rich in culture and life is slowly but surely headed into a very dark and sad future. I am not Egyptian but as I visited last year I saw so much potential and human resources that are simply allowed to decay. The young population is frustrated and depressed over what little of a future their efforts have produced. Now the economy and unemployment rates have made some young women hit the streets and rob men in more affluent neighborhoods. These thieves use their sexuality in order to put men into situation where they have no other recourse but to give up their wallets. Lets not be blinded, in Egypt Muslim's and Christians do coexist but it is sure not equal. These women who happen to be Muslim are hitting the streets and robbing Christian Egyptians with the threat that if they do not give them what they want they will accuse them of assault or begin to scream. This is what a corrupt gov't and high poverty rates have resulted in.
There is a bad government in Egypt with the blessings of the US.
I'd like to remind the first anonymous reply that the late nasser was in fact a ruthless dictator who crushed everyone including the poor too. Mubarak is not perfect but he did improve the crumbling infrastrutre & provided a lot of jobs more than his predecessors but the population growth has stifled any economical gains. The case presented to the judge was somewhat strange, it was whether the ferry owner was negligent in notifying the authorities upon hearing of the problems. The 2nd post sounds awfully weird & surely concoted parts of it.
in reply to7.48.yes Nasser crushed the greedy few maybe 1% of Egyptians were effected by Nasser's reforms.but the Majority of Egyptian maybe 90% who are mostly poor benefited.under the Corrupt Mubarak and Sadat regimes the Egyptian people were crushed under the weight of corruptions.under Nasser you will not see things like letting the Criminals go free by corrupt Egyptian officials.
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